In the past few weeks of ministry, I have heard Israel-loving believers across America ask questions of themselves that I, too, am asking. “Is my short life on earth truly gladdening the heart of God and blessing His people?” Or, “Am I really letting Him shape me into the image of Yeshua and fulfill His call on My life?” I believe this week’s Torah portion (parsha) gives a strong clue to the answer.
First, a bit of personal story. The greatest opposition to our ministry has probably come through attacks on my physical health. It’s not that Kerry and I haven’t embraced God’s Word on healing; confessed faith; repented of sin; received deliverance; eaten healthy; tried countless “snake oils”, or sought both standard and alternative, natural health care and cures. [Note to dear, well-meaning friends: We need fervent prayer much more than suggestions about nutritional supplements or healing ministries at this point. 🙂 ]
Despite the attacks, we’re so thankful for what God has enabled us to do. Last week I was given grace to teach many hours in different churches, fly cross country, and tape TV shows while fighting a very high fever hovering for days and limping about from a leg injury. Next month I’ll have hand surgery that will preclude keyboard typing and other activity for some time. Though we certainly do not welcome such opposition, we do “know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28).
Limitations lead me to pray, Teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom (see Psalm 90:12). Am I spending the few decades I’ve been given in a manner that truly gladdens God’s heart? How do I know if I’m fulfilling His highest desires for my life?
It just so happens that this week’s Torah portion culminates with Genesis 22, which recounts Abraham’s ultimate life test. In obedience to God, the patriarch has by now left his family of origin and already lost one son, Ishmael. Now God directs him to personally slay the other, Isaac.
The same Abraham who boldly interceded for Sodom surrenders in total silence to his own difficult destiny. He complies without hesitancy, leaving early the next morning. He does not turn back during the lengthy, three day journey. Eventually God shows him the sacrificial site, Mount Moriah (“Where the Lord Appears”), future home of the Temple Mount. Abraham instructs his servants, “Stay here…the boy and I will go up there; we will worship and we will return to you” (v.5, JPS Transl.)
Some Christians teach that verse 5 indicates Abraham believed Isaac would either be spared or immediately resurrected. But I agree with Jewish interpretations stating otherwise. If Abraham did not believe he was about to slay Isaac, how genuine could God’s test of faith have been? I suspect that during his three day trek in the desert and wilderness, all the patriarch ever heard God say was, “Trust Me.”
Abraham and Isaac foreshadow the Cross of Messiah on more than one level. Like them, you and I are called to take up our cross and follow Yeshua. If we are willing at any time to surrender that which God has entrusted to us, including that which is most precious to us, I believe we’re likely to be on the path He’s destined for us.
For me, that could mean laying down writing projects or speaking engagements—for something even better in Him. For you, that could mean laying down a salaried job and engaging in new forms of service to God. For others, that could mean relinquishing habitual sin. In this era of dramatic change in America, the Middle East and rest of the world, God’s tests are uniquely suited to each of His chosen ones. They’re lovingly designed to refine the Bride He’s preparing for His Son. Those who align with Israel will be trained to stand strong through surrender to Him.
Genesis 22 demonstrates the recurrent biblical principle that we can’t “outgive” God. Not only does God prevent Abraham’s slaying of Isaac, but He rewards the patriarch by amplifying His original blessing on him (v. 16-18).
The “haftorah,” or other assigned Scripture portion for the week, consists of 2 Kings 4:1-37. This passage describes how God supernaturally provides for two different women of faith. First, each sacrificially surrenders her family or property to God. Then, through the prophet Elisha, each receives miraculous—and astounding—blessing. Neither could outgive God, despite the opposition she faced.
Philippians 3:7-10 says “…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things…I want to know God and the power of His resurrection…” The passages describes the way of the Cross, the way of our father Abraham and our Coming Bridegroom King. Resurrection Life is ours!